‘She’ll Leave You Lost Some Rainy Morn . . .’

A ringing guitar chord followed by an insistent riff came from the speakers last evening, causing me to look up from whatever I was doing. The riff was repeated twice, and then came the vocal:

Three silver rings on slim hands waiting,
Flash bright in candlelight through Sunday’s early morn.
We found a room that rainy morning . . .

I’d recognized the song from the first three words: “The French Girl” by Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker. But I did not know the record, so I checked the RealPlayer. It was by the Daily Flash, a band name I did not recognize. The mp3 had come to me a few years ago when I scavenged a good portion of the Lost Jukebox series from various boards and blogs.

The Daily Flash, it turns out, was from Seattle and had about a three-year run of recording and performing in the mid-1960s, during which it released singles on Parrot (a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”) and on Uni, which in 1967 released the band’s take on “The French Girl.” The second single, says Wikipedia, did well enough to net the group an appearance on the television show The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., which led “to a regular spot as a house band on a local Los Angeles teen-oriented TV show Boss City.”

Learning all of that was fine, and I may dig more into the band’s story another time. (Wikipedia tells the band’s tale here, and the revived band’s website is here.) But I was more interested in the song. There isn’t a lot of information out there about “The French Girl,” as far as I can tell. My favorite tool in that regard, Second Hand Songs, doesn’t have an entry for the tune. A folky version by Bill Staines is available at Amazon, where a countryish cover by a band called the Snakes is listed but not available. At Discogs.com, I learned that a band named Ashtray Boy released a cover of the song as a single in 1996, thirty years after Ian & Sylvia included the tune on their 1966 album, Play One More. I don’t know how Ashtray Boy’s version sounded, but here’s what Ian & Sylvia did with the song.

I know of two other covers of the tune (though I’d guess there are more out there): A version by Gene Clark of the Byrds showed up on the Flying High anthology in 1998, and a note by Richie Unterberger at All Music Guide leads me to believe that Clark recorded the track in the mid-1960s, around the time of the release of the 1967 album Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. Clark’s version of “The French Girl” is a bit pallid to me.

The other cover I know is the first version I ever heard of the song: The version by Glenn Yarbrough on his 1967 album For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. The album was, as I related some years ago, one that my sister had received from a boyfriend who was headed to Vietnam. I don’t know how often she played the record, but the record and Yarbrough became favorites of mine. And listening to Yarbrough introduced me, in those days when I was not listening to pop and rock, to the work of some of the finest folk and folk-rock songwriters of the day. The songwriter credits on Yarbrough’s For Emily album alone contain some impressive names: Paul Simon, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Stephen Stills, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan . . . and Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker, the writers of “The French Girl.”

First impressions matter, folks tell us when we’re young (and maybe not so young). And yes, they do. So it’s no wonder that the version of “The French Girl” that I like the best is the one I heard first. I know that Yarbrough’s lilting tenor might not be the best match for the song. I also know that Ian & Sylvia recorded the song first, and that deserves some respect. I know as well that the more muscular version offered by the Daily Flash is pretty darned good. (And if the Snakes’ version is ever available at Amazon, I’ll probably like it a lot.)

But it’s Yarbrough’s cover of the song that came to me first. And it’s Yarbrough’s version that takes me back to the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard, the haven where I took in the frustration of the song’s narrator – “but her friends down at the French café had no English words for me” – and then pondered my life’s own mysteries, which sadly included no French girl.

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6 Responses to “‘She’ll Leave You Lost Some Rainy Morn . . .’”

  1. David Lenander says:

    I put together a YouTube playlist for this song, with the versions you’ve mentioned, and a couple more. You might want to watch the YouTube mini-program on Bob Dylan’s history with this song, it’s interesting. Thanks for the Yarbrough version, I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered it before this. I also didn’t know of the Bill Staines version, so I’m going to track that down. And I’ll be on the watch for the other versions, Ashtray Boy and the Snakes’. There are a couple in my playlist by amateur musicians (at least I think they’re amateurs) who’ve posted to YT, and both are nice and have their virtues. I like the Yarbrough version, and if I’ve missed hearing the whole of this album, I’ll have to track it down. I’m interested in Buffy Ste-Marie covers, too, especially if of songs other than her big three.

  2. […] week ago, while discussing Glenn Yarbrough’s cover of “The French Girl,” a song first recorded by its writers, Ian Tyson […]

  3. Yah Shure says:

    Aside from “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” Glenn Yarbrough’s records are not among my favorites. But that’s due almost entirely to his producers’ tendencies to drench everything – including Glenn’s vocals – in excess reverb on the stereo LP mixes, and “Baby” is no exception. The mono mix made for the 45 sounded tightly-focused and up front, with the bass drums adding some great energy kicks. It sounded like a hit record.

    The stereo mix segregated the instrumental elements off to either the hard left or hard right, with Glenn’s voice in the middle and echoecho everywherewherewhere. When the whole thing is squashed down to mono, say, on an AM standards-formatted or AM oldies station, the effect is Glenn singing into the Grand Canyon, with the bass drums left behind in Flagstaff. He certainly deserved better in the stereo department.

  4. Nick West says:

    The Snakes’ version is now up on YouTube
    http://youtu.be/tDOwkpcNL-w

  5. The Snakes version is now available. The release date was 27th May 2013, from the album The Last Days of Rock & Roll (Bucketfull of Brains label).
    There’s a Youtube video at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDOwkpcNL-w
    (TheSnakesMusic)

    We learnt the song from the Gene Clark version, initially just for a one time cover version for a Gene Clark night hosted by Sid Griffin in London. We liked it so much we decided to record it!
    John.

  6. whiteray says:

    Thanks, John and Nick, for stopping by and letting us know! We’re tickled to hear from both a band member and someone from the label and plan to check out the track right away!

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